9News-Denver Police relationship not overly cozy, producer says

In our post about a 9News red-light-camera story that featured inaccurate information supplied by the Denver Police Department, which had touted the report in a Twitter survey, we cited one source's suggestion that the relationship between the DPD and the station was too cozy. That observer pointed out that Nicole Vap, executive producer for 9Wants to Know and the I-Team, is on the board of Crime Stoppers. But Vap rejects this theory.

"I don't see it as a conflict of interest," Vap notes. "The Crime Stoppers board is made up of business people, and there's a coordinator that's paid for by the DPD that I hear from occasionally, but that's when they have a crime alert -- and they send out the same crime alerts to all the TV stations. So I don't see any undue relationship because of Crime Stoppers. I think Crime Stoppers is a great organization, and we try to support all law enforcement agencies, not just in Denver."

At the same time, Vap says "I don't think the Denver Police have a cozy relationship with anyone in the media. At any given time, they're usually upset at one of the outlets or another. And we go after the police department and report on them just like everyone else. A case in point is all the stories we did on Michael DeHerrera and the police beatings. We're not holding back. When we break news, it's easy to say it must be because of this or because of that. But it's just good reporting."

One more piece of evidence that Vap doesn't cut the DPD slack despite her Crime Stoppers affiliation can be found in "Wish List," a 2005 Message column. The piece highlighted efforts by a coalition of local media figures from various TV stations and the now-shuttered Rocky Mountain News, including Vap, to gain greater access to public records -- and the DPD was the focus of special criticism. Here's an excerpt from the article:

[Brian] Maass, [Tony] Kovaleski and, to a lesser extent, Vap save their choicest gripes for the Denver Police Department, whose separate report contrasts sharply with the overview of other city agencies. The DPD received 157 requests during the specified period, granting 91, referring eight, and rejecting 58, or 37 percent of the total.

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The department under Chief Robert White appears to be making an effort to shed its reputation for obstructionism, although its efforts are sometimes misinterpreted. In our previous post, a source raised questions about DPD spokesman Sonny Jackson going to the 9News studio to apologize for incorrect data provided for the red-light-camera story. But DPD spokesman Lieutenant Matt Murray stresses that such visits to stations aren't all that uncommon, and they're becoming more frequent as the department works to increase its openness.

Vap believes the DPD is making progress in this respect. "There's a little different tone coming from the police department lately. When was the last time you heard them apologize before that whole thing with the legislator?" she asks, referencing the non-arrest of Representative Laura Bradford in January. "And the fact that he came to us to apologize for something else is hopefully a sign of more transparency."

Vap says 9News takes the same tack. "We just had people from the police department visit our morning news meeting to see how we make decisions," she reveals. "We're an open process."

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More from our Follow That Story archive: "Michael DeHerrera talks about reinstatement of cops who beat him (VIDEO)."

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